British Rail Class 28

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The British Rail Class 28 (Metro-Vick Type 2) diesel-electric locomotives, known variously as 'Metrovicks', 'Crossleys'[1] or 'Co-Bos', were built under the Pilot Scheme for diesel locomotives as part of the British Railways 1955 Modernisation Plan.

Metropolitan Vickers Type 2,
British Rail Class 28
Millbrook Metropolitan-Vickers (later Class 28) geograph-2397690-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
Two 'Metrovicks' Nos. D5703 & D5710 passing Millbrook, Bedfordshire in 1960
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderMetropolitan-VickersBowesfield Works, Stockton-on-Tees.
Build date1958–1959
Total produced20
 • UICCo'Bo'
 • CommonwealthCo-Bo
Gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter3 ft 3+12 in (1.003 m)
Minimum curve3.5 chains (70 m)
Wheelbase42 ft 9 in (13.03 m)
Length56 ft 7+12 in (17.26 m)
Width8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Height12 ft 1+12 in (3.70 m)
Loco weight97 long tons (98.6 t; 109 short tons)
Fuel capacity510 imp gal (2,300 l; 610 US gal)
Prime moverCrossley HST V8
Traction motorsMetropolitan-Vickers 137BZ, DC 5 off
TransmissionDiesel electric
MU working Red Circle
Train heatingSpanner steam generator of 1,500 lb/h (680 kg/h)
Train brakesVacuum
Performance figures
Maximum speed75 mph (121 km/h)
Power outputEngine: 1,200 hp (895 kW)
Tractive effortMaximum: 50,000 lbf (222 kN)
OperatorsBritish Railways
Axle load classRoute availability 6
RetiredDecember 1967 – September 1968
DispositionOne preserved, remainder scrapped

These Crossley-engined locomotives were the only two-stroke diesels built under the Pilot Scheme.[i]

The locomotives had a Co-Bo wheel arrangement (a 6-wheel bogie at one end, a 4-wheel bogie at the other) – unique in British Railways practice and uncommon in other countries, although Japan also used some C-B diesel hydraulics. The maximum tractive effort of 50,000 lbf (220 kN) was unusually high for a Type 2 locomotive but, as there were five (not four) driving axles, the risk of wheelslip was minimal.


Work had begun on the Pilot Scheme in 1954 and the first plan for 174 locomotives (all classes) had been produced by October 1954, including 20 of these Metro-Vick Type B locos, although orders were not placed until November 1955.[2] In July 1956 the Type A, B and C designations were changed to Types 1, 2 and 4, making this a Type 2.[ii][3]

The two-stroke engine was chosen as a comparison to the more common four-stroke engines used, and partly as a result of the influence of Oliver Bulleid. The leading manufacturer of such two-stroke locomotive engines was General Motors, but the national shortage of foreign exchange meant that imported engines were unaffordable. Crossley in Manchester had a suitable design in production as a generator set for the Admiralty and had also used it for a class of locomotives in Australia. Although Bulleid had left British railways and moved to Ireland and the CIÉ, he had been impressed by the Admiralty's experience of the Crossley diesel and had already ordered 60 similar locomotives, as the CIÉ's 001 class.[4]


With low-speed Crossley 8-cylinder HST V8 two stroke engines, they represented an experiment in two stroke versus four stroke engines for diesel-electric traction.

The engines had exhaust pulse pressure charging and developed 1,200 horsepower (895 kW) at 625 rpm. There were no valves, and inlet and exhaust were via ports in the cylinder walls. The same engine was originally fitted in the Irish A Class and the Western Australian Government Railways X class. A similar, but smaller engine, the ESNT6 was used in the D3/3 shunters, an 08 with a Crossley engine rather than English-Electric.

Almost from the beginning, the Metrovick's Crossley engines were problematic.[5] They suffered frequent failures and by 1961 the entire class was handed back to the manufacturer for remedial work on the engines and to cure problems with cab windows falling out while running. The cab windows were modified, such that instead of wrapping round to the side, the outer front windows were replaced by a flat piece of glass facing the front only.

The engines were also noisy and prone to unacceptable levels of smoky exhaust fumes.[6]


Total weight in working order was 97 long tons, distributed as shown in the table below. The units are tons, hundredweights and quarters.[7]

No. 1 end (Co) No. 2 end (Bo) Total
In working order 18-17-0 19-14-2 19-13-1 19-4-0 19-14-2 97-3-1
Empty 18-0-2 18-4-0 18-2-3 18-0-0 18-4-0 90-11-1
Unsprung 3-13-1 3-13-1 3-13-1 3-15-2 3-15-2 18-10-3


All twenty Metrovicks were initially allocated to the Midland Division of BR's London Midland Region, where they were often used in pairs on the overnight LondonGlasgow "Condor" express freight service. After the 1961 refurbishment they were all transferred to the Barrow-in-Furness 12E depot. They were withdrawn after only eleven years at work and in service. The allocation of all twenty locomotives in October 1967 was Carlisle Upperby.[8]

Despite the locomotives being otherwise reliable the Crossley engines were still giving problems and British Rail considered replacing the engines, as was done with the Class 31 diesels and, later, with Crossley-engined locomotives in Ireland. Instead the entire class was withdrawn from service during 1967–68, and all but one were scrapped by the end of 1969.[9] Their parts had been sold to make new metals by the end of 1971.

Table of withdrawals
Year Quantity in
service at
start of year
Locomotive numbers Notes
1967 20 6 D5700/03–04/09–10/13
1968 14 14 D5701–02/05–08/11–12/14–19 D5705 went into departmental use


D5705 at Matlock

A single locomotive, D5705, survived by historical accident, being renumbered S15705 and used from December 1968 by the Research Division for its Tribology Test train.[10] It was superseded by a Class 24, and was used as carriage heating unit TDB968006 (based at Bath Road Depot, Bristol) before being preserved in 1985. Prior to this, it spent several years in a semi-protected siding on the line from Gloucester, just outside Swindon Station. It is currently on the East Lancashire Railway. The Class 15 Preservation Society has signed an agreement with the owners of D5705 to become its custodians during its restoration and operation for the next ten years, although funding will remain separate.[11]

In fictionEdit

The Class 28 is the basis for BoCo, a character in The Railway Series children's books by the Rev. W. Awdry and the spin-off TV series Thomas and Friends. He carries the number D5702.[citation needed]


The Class 28 has been made as a 00 gauge model in several forms, including a ready-to-run version by Hornby Dublo. A ready to run model is being produced by Heljan on behalf of and exclusive to Hatton's Model Railways in Liverpool.[12] The Silver Fox Models model has now been withdrawn.

See alsoEdit

  • EMD FL9, US contemporary of the Class 28, with B-A1A arrangement
  • JNR Class DE10, a Japanese diesel-hydraulic with C-B arrangement


  1. ^ The English-Electric Deltics with their unique two-stroke engines pre-dated the Pilot Scheme.
  2. ^ As a corollary of this, no Type 3 locomotives (1,500–2,000 bhp), such as the Class 37 or Class 35 Hymeks had been ordered under this initial Scheme.

  1. ^ Clough (2005), p. 85.
  2. ^ Clough (2005), p. 40.
  3. ^ Clough (2005), p. 41.
  4. ^ Clough (2005), pp. 83, 85.
  5. ^ "The Greenest of Diesels". Gloucestershire Transport History. Different Strokes.
  6. ^ Clough, David N. (2011). Hydraulic vs Electric: The battle for the BR diesel fleet. Ian Allan. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7110-3550-8.
  7. ^ Haresnape, Brian (May 1984) [1981]. British Rail Fleet Survey 1: Early Prototype and Pilot Scheme Diesel-Electrics. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 61. ISBN 0-7110-1121-4. CX/0584.
  8. ^ British Rail Locoshed Book. Shepperton: Ian Allan. February 1968. p. 26. ISBN 0-7110-0004-2.
  9. ^ Marsden, Colin J. (November 1984). BR Locomotive Numbering. Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 190–3. ISBN 0-7110-1445-0. EX/1184.
  10. ^ Marsden, C.J., (1989) 25 Years of Railway Research, Yeovil: Haynes Publishing Group
  11. ^ Class 15 Preservation Society newsletter, October 2009
  12. ^ "Heljan 2800 Class 28 Co-Bo Diesel D5700 Full BR Green - with modified windows". Retrieved 20 March 2013.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit